My list of the best Christmas songs

A good Christmas song makes your heart swell. It expresses your feelings exactly. It reminds you of happy times. It makes you want to sing along as loudly as you can. What else makes a good song?

1. A new, vibrant take on something old and familiar. Gloria Estefan’s Let It Snow has a great beat and brass accompaniment. James Taylor’s Go Tell It on the Mountain puts a jazzy beat to an old favorite. Amy Grant’s Jingle Bell Rock makes you want to sing along with the background vocals.

2. A sense of humor. Straight No Chaser’s 12 Days of Christmas adds a much-needed dose of humor to an otherwise excruciating song. Another great one is Christmas Wrapping by the Waitresses. Come on, you know you love to sing along to this one: A&P has pride in me with the world’s smallest turkey, already in the oven, nice and hot, oh damn, guess what I forgot? In an earlier post I mentioned wanting Christmas songs that talk about crowds and lines and holiday stress. This is what I meant.

3. A nod to melancholy. A good Christmas song acknowledges that the holidays are ambivalent times, and many of us feel sad or lonely. Joni Mitchell’s River is probably the best example. Amy Grant’s Till the Season Comes Round Again and Chris Botti’s The First Noel are good ones, too.

4. Pure beauty. James Taylor’s Some Children See Him. Amy Grant’s A Christmas Lullaby (I Will Lead You Home)In The Bleak Midwinter by Harold Darke, performed by the Kings College Choir, and What Sweeter Music Can We Bring by John Rutter. My absolute favorite is Morten Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium, which makes me think of angels singing.

6. Jazz. Give it a jazzy beat and I can listen to the classics all day long. Jazz Holidays is my favorite Pandora station. Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas is a classic that I will never get tired of hearing. Another good one is the Boston Pops Holiday Pops album from 1998, with Good Swing Wenceslas. Marcus Roberts’ version of Winter Wonderland, from a 1994 recording called Swing Into Christmas, is another favorite, but I can’t find a link for the song.

7. The classics. See, I told you that you can never get away from them! Here are some classics done with new arrangements. Michael BublĂ© Jingle Bells. I’ll Be Home for Christmas by Pentatonix. All I Want for Christmas is You featuring the amazing Amber Riley from Glee.

What are your favorites?


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